Detailed plans for dualling of the A1 in Northumberland set to be lodged
Detailed plans for the dualling of the A1 in Northumberland are to be lodged ‘imminently’, sparking a six-month countdown for their assessment.
A development consent order (DCO) – the equivalent of a planning application for major infrastructure projects – for the Morpeth to Felton section is to be submitted first, followed by a separate DCO for the Alnwick to Ellingham section in early April.
For the Morpeth to Felton stretch, around half of the new dual carriageway is to be built offline to the west of the current road, while the Alnwick to Ellingham section will all be built online, expanding the existing A1 to the east.
The bids will be decided by the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and a planning inspector will be appointed to conduct examinations into the two proposals.
The inspector has a statutory duty to conclude the examination part of the DCO process within six months.
Northumberland County Council is the host authority for the development and has to submit local impact reports (LIRs) as part of the process.
At next Tuesday’s (March 3) meeting of the authority’s strategic planning committee, members are being asked to ‘endorse the general approach to matters to be included’ in these LIRs.
The report to councillors sets out that the topics to be covered will include impact on existing land uses; landscape and visual impact; cultural heritage; biodiversity; air quality; noise and vibration; flood risk and drainage; people and communities; material resources; climate change and emissions.
However, it also notes the problems with the current road identified in a 2014 study, stating: ‘The council is hopeful that by dualling the A1 in this location, as well as improving highway safety, it would also act as a catalyst for economic growth by improving the connectivity of north Northumberland with the wider region.
‘This is reflected in Policy TRA 3 of the emerging Northumberland Local Plan which supports the full dualling of the A1 through Northumberland with improved local links and junctions.’
It was December 1, 2014, when the then Prime Minister David Cameron visited the county to announce £290million for the scheme, which includes the two sections of dualling as well as other improvements north of Ellingham.
Since then, there have been a number of opportunities for residents to have their say, while officials have carried out various surveys and assessments, before the preferred routes for the two sections of dualling were announced in 2017, sparking further public consultation.
An update last spring from Highways England’s project manager, Mark Stoneman, revealed that the target date for the submission of the Morpeth to Felton DCO was summer 2019 so work could start this March. The aim for Alnwick to Ellingham was submission by the end of last year for work to start in 2021.
These time-scales have slipped, so it means that the targets for both sections are now for work to start in 2021 and the new routes to be open to traffic in 2023.
To the north of Ellingham, a total of 11 junctions are to be improved, after initial proposals for overtaking lanes were dropped due to safety concerns over their proximity to junctions.
This project got under way in late 2018 and so far, the work on the junctions at Fenham le Moor, Outchester, Adderstone Mains and Newstead has been completed.
Others to be improved are the junctions at Cheswick Buildings, Fenhamhill, Haggerston Castle, Warenford, Purdy Lodge and Belford Station Road.
There continue to be calls for the A1 to be dualled all the way to the Scottish Border and during his update last March, Mr Stoneman said he will ‘help support the case’ alongside Northumberland County Council and MPs.
Highways England is a government company that carries out the work as directed by the Department for Transport, which allocates the funding.